I’m happy to announce that my Guide to The Champions is now available to all CK readers! This guide covers both the 1975 Champions of Los Angeles as well as the 2016 revival of the team as a squad of Marvel’s young characters in the wake of Civil War II This guide exists thanks to the ongoing support of the outstanding Patrons of Crushing Krisis.
When I first covered how to collect the 1975 edition of The Champions they didn’t merit their own guide page. They had 17 issues of their own and then faded into Marvel history while their members scattered to the winds. I relegated them to my Guide to X-Men Ongoings due to the team including Angel and Iceman.
In reality, the problem with reassembling The Champions wasn’t just that Iceman and Beast had been incorporated into The Defenders (visit the Guide to Defenders), and later into X-Factor (visit the newly-updated Guide to X-Factor)
It was also that Marvel lost the ability to publish comics with the “Champions” title!
A decade after the book’s cancellation, Heroic Publishing launched a super-hero-themed RPG with the same title alongside a companion comic series. Marvel had lost their legal claim to their trademark on the title. It wasn’t until the 2010s
that some behind-the-scenes legal wrangling made it possible for Marvel to publish new comics under that title.
Of course, by 2016 a team of two X-Men, Hercules, Ghost Rider, and Black Widow would be a pretty peculiar prospect. None of them were strong sellers at the same, and Marvel was doing anything it could to avoid including mutants into otherwise-adaptable projects. (This was before the Fox deal was executed, bringing X-Men back to Disney.)
Instead, Marvel did the next best thing: they looked around the current universe for a group of popular characters who could use a team name and settled on a motley group of teenage heroes, many of whom had just been Avengers up until Civil War II soured them on the adult hero business.
Marvel’s revival penned by industry vet Mark Waid was actually very clever. Of the members of the team, only Miles Morales is a perennial steady-seller on his own. Yet, there were plenty of multimedia possibilities with Ms. Marvel, Sam Alexander as Nova, Viv Vision, and the other young members of the team. Putting them under a single umbrella was a way to combine the buying power of their collective fandoms.
By 2017 it was clear that the team was sticking around past a typical two-trades-and-out run and that I shouldn’t relegate it to a subsection of the Guide to Ms. Marvel. Thus, the Guide to the Champions was born as a Patron Exclusive!
Since creating the guide, the team has been through a few transformations. Jim Zub took it over for a pair of strong runs and used it as an umbrella for nearly every young Marvel hero without a team affiliation. Then, in 2020 it was due for a major relaunch by Danny Lore alongside the youth-focused “Outlawed” event, only for plans to be scuttled by the industry-wide pandemic pause in 2020 due to global lockdowns. The Champions relaunch went forward after the industry resumed (adding Ironheart to the core cast). It didn’t catch on with fans and quietly ended after two arcs.
I doubt that’s the last we’ll hear from The Champions at Marvel – and not only because they are much better at avoiding abandoning any trademarks these days! With Ms. Marvel and Ironheart both active in the MCU, Miles Morales starring in a Spider-Verse follow-up, and whispers of Nova on Marvel’s upcoming slate, The Champions are primed for a return in the near future.